Blugolds fall short against reigning Div. III national champions

Story by David Heiling, News Editor

The men’s basketball team could not get by the nationally ranked UW-Whitewater Warhawks as they fell 72-63 Saturday at Zorn Arena.

The Blugolds turned the ball over 19 times throughout the course of the game and did not score a single point in transition off any of Whitewater’s 13 turnovers, a large factor in the Blugolds’ loss.

Eau Claire held the lead going into halftime, but Whitewater made a stand, going on a 22-4 run encompassing nine minutes of gameplay midway through the second half.

Blugolds Head Coach Mat Siverling said that turnovers were a key part in the Blugolds’ offensive struggles in the second half.

“They turned up their pressure,” Siverling said. “They really got after us on the defensive end, and I think we turned the ball over three times in a row and they got some transition buckets.”

Whitewater was the men’s basketball Div. III national champions last year after they defeated Cabrini College (Penn.) in the national championship game.

Blugolds senior forward Nick Craggs said he expected nothing less than a big run from a team as experienced as Whitewater.

“That 12-0 run killed us,” Craggs said. “Their coach just has them turn it on a little bit there and some of their players got hot, and it broke our backs.”

Senior guard Jordan Petersen led the team in scoring, totalling 18 for the game and 14 of the Blugolds’ 26 first half points, while Craggs recorded 17 points on 6-9 shooting from the field.

Craggs said he isn’t one for moral victories, but putting a scare into the defending national champions at home says something about this Blugolds team.

Despite the slow part of the game in the second half for the Blugolds, the team stayed with the Warhawks and made it a competitive contest. Siverling thought his team showed resiliency in the final minutes of the game, and was proud of his team’s overall performance.

“I think something that these guys have to learn is to play how we played tonight, every game,” Siverling said. “I think if we played this well in some of our other games, we would have won those games.

Whitewater sophomore guard KJ Evans led the team with 17 points and the Warhawks moved to 15-4 (8-3) on the season.

The loss dropped Eau Claire to 9-11 (3-8) on the season and takes them out of the sixth and final transfer spot for the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference playoffs, which take place after the season ends.

The Blugolds’ game scheduled for Wednesday against UW-Oshkosh was postponed until Thursday. Eau Claire will look for their fourth conference win of the season.